Forum Bulletin

Cash Mobs Bring Customers to Main Streets 

07-06-2012 00:00

There’s a new twist to the shop local movement. Cash mobs. This new trend, which got its start last year, is the shop local version of a “flash mob”—people gather to descend on a small business and agree to spend at least $20 during a short window of time. The trend’s mantra?  “We each do a little. We all do a lot.”

And local Main Street programs are catching on to cash mob fever. The benefits are obvious. A cash mob brings people downtown, it introduces new customers to an establishment, it generates media attention, and it builds community spirit. Plus, cash mobs don’t require much planning and can be executed on the fly.

Andrew Samtoy, the organizer of what he thinks was the first cash mob in Cleveland in November 2011, originally posted three rules for the cash mob:

  • Spend $20
  • Meet three new people
  • Have fun

Most Main Street organizations, however, have taken the basic idea behind the cash mob and adapted it to suit their community. Some hold the event during the lunch hour; others host the event in the early evening.  Still others took advantage of National Cash Mob day (this year it was Saturday, March 24) to organize their first cash mob.  A few hold cash mobs once a month.

Cash mob organizers are finding creative ways to select the lucky business. Nacogdoches Main Street asked locals to write on their Facebook wall and tweet where they wanted to have the cash mob. Others take nominations from community members and ask people to vote on where the cash mob will take place.  Livermore Downtown in California drew names of businesses from a bucket.

Organizers get the word out in a variety of ways. It is a great event to promote via social media like Facebook and Twitter.  Some promote the event in advance, which gives the business owner time to prep the inventory and schedule enough staff. Others announce the location right before the event, in keeping with the spontaneous, fluid nature of the event.

Cash mobs help to celebrate small businesses and what they do for a community. And they are about the customer as opposed to the retailer. Cash mobs allow customers to feel good about doing something small that can have a big impact.  And in this case… the customer is always right.

#ForumBulletin #MainStreetAmerica

Author(s):National Trust Staff

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